Which yarns are sustainable?

I thought I would make a simple list of what yarns people should look into using for sustainable yarncrafting. I think it will probably take me a while so this list is not a complete list but I am working on it making notes for myself and welcome others to help me. Sustainable yarns are compostable yarns that are eco-friendly.

Sustainable Yarn:

  • Wool
  • Bamboo
  • Organic Cotton
  • Linen
  • Tencel
  • Silk
  • Recycled Jeans Fiber

Unsustainable Yarn:

  • Nylon
  • Polyester
  • Acrylic

Bio-based textiles are natural cellulose fibers but are treated heavily with chemicals. I would consider these to be on the fence fibers:

  • Viscose
  • Rayon
  • Modal
  • Lyocell

5-21-19 – I saw a yarn recently with the fiber PBT. I had no idea what that was. It’s a plastic from the polyester family. So I am putting that in the unsustainable yarn list. What a bummer because it looks pretty nice.

Universal Bamboo Sock Yarn – 37% Cotton, 8% PBT and 55% Bamboo

Natural dyes and natural colors of the textile is prefered. Blends with synthetic materials are common but to be avoided. It is ideal to get the yarn locally sourced so that it is not sent on several planes to get to the customer. It takes some research but try to see if you can find places that are close by to support them. If anyone has a directory for this, please bless me with a link. Some yarns are from fair trade sources to help communities of people in 3rd world countries in rural environments to receive a fair exchange of currency to help build small business and to introduce others to culturally resourced handicrafts from interesting countries and the artisans who live there, especially women who might benefit from the income.



Starting Your Eco-Craft Journey

earthy yarn

Here are 3 tips that can change everything that you have been doing. Let me know if there are other things and perhaps we can make some changes together.

  1. Stop being a hoarder and instead become a craft minimalist:
I just put this on Etsy today. It’s a lot but I still have more!

I love YouTube podcasts and tutorials. I watch them everyday. Many times you will see a craft YouTuber with yarn cubbies in the background where they keep the whole wall filled with yarn. Many times they won’t use it and if you are in the real world with windows open and pets,  dust gets on it.  Rethink the way you do your crafting and free yourself from the mess of having to inventory, clean up and organize or get out of control and become waste. Buy yarn less often for projects you know you will work on and not because it is nice to look at and later you will probably forget it is there, I put my yarn in a big plastic quilt bag with a zipper. It keeps everything nice and clean and bugs and dust are not a worry. It’s not filled but as soon as spring is over, I am going to need a place to store my big quilt so I am planning on smaller zipper bag that the sheets came in.

I just photographed all my extra tools and tools I haven’t used in a while because I am seeing if I can sell them all. I put all my selected tools into one clean men’s toiletry bag. I suddenly feel better with the extra space in the room.


2. Only Use Yarn that can be Composted:

Wool is great. The sheep are well cared for, healthy and eat grass like they are supposed to. I saw that wool sock yarn usually has nylon or polyamide for the stretch and strength. They are still not compostable and even though it might be blended with something that can be, it makes the whole skein uncompostable. Go for 100% wool or a natural blend and knit at a tighter gauge. The less processing for yarn, the better. Not even dye is good for yarn unless it is natural dye. I know it is going to take more work but there is a market for what we are looking for and it is starting to take off. For the cotton, this is actually is not a good textile because most of the cotton is GMO which requires pesticides and corrodes the soil and depletes soil nutrients. It takes a lot of water to process, too. Instead of regular cotton use organic cotton which is more eco-friendly. Linen and bamboo are also good choices. Recycled yarns are out for consumers, now, also.


3. Buy locally:

This might be hard sometimes. It’s cheaper to buy yarn when it comes from China, India or Turkey but it still has to travel here. I know that there are yarn and crafting tools that we don’t make in the USA, too. Cheap yarn comes from places where they pay workers very little. Many times they are exposed to toxic chemicals. They wrap everything in plastic as they come into the states. All this is very bad because the people making and handling the yarn are more susceptible to illness and cancer-causing chemicals and the plastics they are wrapped in become landfill waste that will take a long time to decompose and leach toxins in the water supply.

At the same time there are rare sheep breeds in different parts of the world that I want to support and British classic wool. Also because of what happened in Sri Lanka, I want to help at least a little and help their economy. Sometimes I have dilemmas on what I should do because it seems like I will never be 100% eco-friendly as hard as I try. I am still debating with myself to use wood or metal circular needles. It’s been a month, too! The nylon cord is never going to be eco-friendly and as I said in another post, the thin bamboo knitting needles I use are starting to bend!

The plus side is always helping small business in your community within the country you live in.  It supports local craft and textile art businesses. It also takes less transportation to get here. It doesn’t have to be packed, inspected and put on an international flight or ship to get on another plane to get to our closest major city and then on semi truck and then on a smaller truck to get to our home. That is a lot of distance and fuel to get here.

Lastly, I want to conclude with that it is not easy and not always possible so please just do your best and eliminate the stress and worry by having less, creating more space, being more thoughtful with what you are going to do with what you buy and having a cleaner work space. You are learning like I am learning and together we will make better choices and this trend is going to change our lives and the way we think going into the future. We are the pioneers of the eco-friendly craft movement so please smile and do your best because people are noticing and watching you and will love to learn something about it. Have fun doing a little research and be ready to answer questions. God bless you all!